When Andre Hollins pulled up the ESPN app on his phone on Wednesday night and saw that Penn State had managed the upset over No. 4 Michigan, spurring their own court rush in State College, the sophomore couldn’t believe it.
“I was like ‘What?!’” Hollins said, giving an animated expression. “I turned on the TV on Big Ten network and they were replaying the highlights. It just shows how this league is.”
Because of that, the Gophers players know they can’t rest tomorrow in their last home game of the season – against the Nittany Lions. And they draw back on the Wisconsin win, on Valentine's Day, for proof.
After that victory, the Gophers followed with a couple of practices that were on the weaker side, Rodney Williams said. As a result, they got blown out in consecutive losses at Iowa and Ohio State.
“When we get big wins, we get really excited, we get high on ourselves, and sometimes we kind of stay in the past, we stay with that last game,” Williams said. “Coach has been trying to make sure that you can’t get too high with the victories, you can’t get too low with the losses. So that’s something that’ we’ve been working on.”
Knowing that they still didn’t play perfectly on Tuesday – shooting just 20 percent from 3-point range and looking stagnant in their half-court offense at times – helps seal the message.
“Our guys have to stay hungry and stay focused and take it one game at a time,” coach Tubby Smith said. “Everything else will take care of itself if we do that. If we don’t, we’ve got issues.”
Other notes from tonight’s media access:
- Tomorrow is senior day at the Barn. Smith said he expects to start all four of his seniors (Trevor Mbakwe, Williams, Julian Welch, Andre Ingram).
- Smith said he also plans to stick with a shorter bench, if he can get production like he did on Tuesday from Maverick Ahanmisi and Elliott Eliason. “When they’re playing well, there’s no reason to play anyone else, to be honest with you,” Smith said. At the same time, he doesn’t like to predict these things, noting that a lot of it has to do with the flow of the game.
- Williams is still wearing the sleeve over his left shoulder as he practices. At this point, he’s just comfortable with it, he said, and it keeps the tweaked shoulder warm. He’ll likely keep it at least through tomorrow.
- Hollins said he likes playing 2-guard just fine, and that he’ll likely get more time there with Maverick Ahanmisi running the point more often. Ahanmisi did so for nearly half the game on Tuesday. “[Coach] wants me out in transition because I’ll be harder to guard when I’m without the ball,” Hollins said. “So just learning to play without the ball a little bit more, be a little bit more dangerous.”
- Williams said his late-game block of Victor Oladipo was his “top block memory” at Minnesota, and that when he went back to look at the replay, it surprised him how much lift he got on the play. “I didn’t think I got that high,” he said. “But it was a play that needed to happen and I was the guy that was right there, so I had to go out and get it.”
- Asked what he would tell local recruits who might be interested in coming to Minnesota, Williams talked about his own experience. “You don’t get a chance like that to play in front of great fans like this – and it’s home,” he said. “And you get to play for a legendary coach. Putting all those pieces together, that’s what made my decision. Just to have your family there all the time and it’s a great atmosphere, playing on the raised court and all that. All those factors are why I came here, so I don’t see why any other Minnesota kid wouldn’t want to try it out too. Tuesday’s win, I hope that helps sell it. Hopefully we can get some good recruits in here, get some guys in here that want to have that experience again.”
- Thursday night’s court rushing at Virginia when the Cavaliers took a win over No. 3 Duke only added some fire to the discussion about the safety of such traditions. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski lamented that his players were not protected very well in the Virginia rush. Asked about his perspective, Williams said he hoped colleges allowed fans to continue rushing. “I think that’s part of the college experience,” he said. “When you get a big win, the crowd is a really big help in those wins. I know Tuesday night, if we didn’t have that fan support that we did here, it would have been just a little bit harder to be so into the game, even though you’re playing against the No. 1 team. I don’t think they should stop that – I think they should let it keep happening. You haven’t heard too many stories about people getting hurt yet, so I’m not saying that I hope it does, but until then, I think they should let it keep happening.”